Beauty and Ideas

A sketch from A Bit of Fry & Laurie

Stephen is as we remember him from Language Conversation. So is Hugh. But he's warier. He's done this before.

Stephen So, in a sense, in a sense, in a sense, Duncan, we are left with those two. Two. None other. Nary another, not one other more. We have, on the one side of the divide, the gulf, the chasm, the DIVIDING LINE, if you please, we have the beauty of ideas, and on the other, the other side, oh, I don't know, the other term of the equation if that's nicer, we have the idea of beauty. Am I sensing through? Am I connecting? Hugh glances at the camera in friendly fashion.

Hugh We're discussing the beauty of ideas and the idea of beauty.

Stephen Hold a thought for me, Geoffrey, I'll give you the thought, hold it for me. Would you please?

Hugh I'm going to hold a thought, now.

Stephen If beauty is only an idea, a form, a paradigm, a pattern, a template, an ideal, an idea, if you like, with an "l", then what is "the beautiful"? Beauty is unattainable, but "the beautiful" surrounds us. We return to language. Philip, we're back with language again. That's the thought you'd be ever so to splendid for me.

Hugh We've made a return to language. That's the thought I'm holding.

Stephen Listen to me lovelet, language circumscribes beauty, confines it, limns, delineates, colours and contains. Yet what is language but a tool, a tool we use to dig up the beauty that we take as our only and absolute real?

Hugh Language is a tool.

Stephen So I'm finding myself with some surprise and no little alarm hurling a paradox at you. Beauty is our only reality and yet it is an ideal. It is the surface-tension of the membrane that stretches between us and the vision of beauty that language seeks to disperse, as a detergent might dissipate or dissolve a droplet of oil.

Hugh I'm in trouble now.

Stephen Hush, tish, vibble, I'm streaking ahead. Let me explain, expand, expound and exposit.

Hugh Would you?

Stephen I find you beautiful. But you are not beauty.

Hugh Whoops.

Stephen Therefore you contain a property of beauty. Therefore the substance of which you exhibit a property must exist. Where is it? Hugh looks about helpfully, in case it is on the table or has been left on the floor. That is language's task. Who was it who said "Language is the universal whore that I must make into a virgin?" Who was it?

Hugh Kate Adie?

Stephen I think it was Karl Kraus. But it needn't have been. Now. Tommy, time to ask you to give back the thought I bade you hold for me.

Hugh I was holding the thought "We've made a return to language."

Stephen Correct correctington. Language pursues beauty, harries it, hounds it, courses it across the roughlands of truth and enquiry AND IN SO DOING CAN BE BEAUTIFUL ITSELF. Ripple on ripple, image with image, a wheel within a wheel like the circles that you find in the windmills of your mind.

Hugh Noel Harrison.

Stephen Noel, as you so rightly, Harrison. Language can be beautiful. And Madeline asleep in lap of legends old. Plenitude. Dishes. Martita. Breasts. Tumble. Emolument. Forage. Smitten. Plenum. Vulva. Words that have their own sonority and beauty that is extrinsic, extrinsic to their connotational OR DENOTATIONAL referends.

Hugh I think he said vulva.

Stephen So Timothy I'll leave you with a thought, a breath, a fruit that drops from the boughs of my imaginings. Think beauty but be beautiful. Say beauty, but say it beautifully. Beauty is duty and duty beauty. So there. Goodnight. I don't feel quite so well now.

Hugh (To camera) I'll talk to you later. B-bye.

Vox Pop

Hugh The exciting thing about Chris Patten is that he's bold and imaginative.

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